East Coast Star Comes Back Home To ASU

It is all too common for schools to spend endless hours traveling long distances in search for quality recruits. However, once in a while, a blue chip recruit happens to land in your back yard, no more than 20 miles from campus. Such is the story of Nick Johnson. The defensive end moved from Washington D.C., to Chandler for his senior year, and once he was in back the valley, he had no doubt that he'll be wearing the maroon and gold in 2002.

During his four years of high school the defensive end attended both Chandler and Coolidge HS in Washington D.C. "I was in Chandler for my freshman year, then I was in D.C. for the next two years, and I moved here to Arizona for my senior year. The first time I moved here was like 6-7 years ago. I really didn't want to move here, but when I did I really fell in love with the place. So, when I moved here for the second time last year, I just knew that I wanted to play at ASU and be in a place that I'm comfortable and familiar with." Even though Johnson hasn't been playing Football for long, he been following the Sun Devils for a while. "I only started playing Football in my freshman year." Says the PrepStar all-Region selection. "It was all about Basketball until then. Once I got into Football, I was watching it all the time. That's when I got familiar with ASU, and I liked them ever since."

Johnson made quite a splash during his junior season at Coolidge. He played in four games and recorded 28 tackles and seven quarterback sacks. Thus, it was no wonder that Maryland along with a lot of other ACC schools, as well as Penn State were vying for his services. However, once he learned that he was moving back to Arizona last summer he knew he was going to attend ASU. Back at a Rutgers Nike camp last April he said that the Sun Devils were the only ones he was considering: "Arizona State, that's my school." He said. "I've always been a Sun Devil fan and that's the only school I'm interested in playing for." Ironically, his first contact with ASU was made after a story ran in the Arizona Republic newspaper. "The Washington Post contacted the Arizona Republic, asking about me." Recalls Johnson who was also an all-conference punter in Washington D.C. "The Republic ran a story about me, and ASU contacted me right after the article ran." While Johnson was sold on ASU for quite some time, he was still blown away by the treatment he received from the Sun Devil coaches. "When I met coaches from the ACC, like Maryland, they were way different than the ASU coaches. The ASU coaches were really nice. I liked everything about them, but I was also a little suspicious at first, because I wasn't used to that treatment. The coaches were real nice to my Mom too, and she was impressed." The freshman to-be, who was listed as the No. 10 player in Arizona in the preseason by SuperPrep Magazine, was pleasantly overwhelmed by his official visit. "I was real impressed how coach Koetter opened his house to me. That was real shocking. The campus is big, you never have to leave it – everything you need is right there. I liked everything about the school, and I also wanted to be close to my Mom. So, I decided early in the process to commit to ASU"

It was no coincidence that fellow defensive end Terrell Suggs, who was at Chandler HS when Johnson was a freshman, was the host player on the official visit. It would be natural to name this heralded recruit as the air apparent to Suggs, arguably the best pass rusher in the Pac-10, but Johnson begs to differ: "I want to compete with Terrell, not replace him. I want to compete with him from day one. He went to Chandler high school when I was there. He was the big guy then, and I was the little guy. I want to let him know that it's time for the little guy to come out and challenge him (smile)." Johnson may be confident in his abilities, but he does offer an honest assessment of his skills: "I have a pretty good speed rush, but I need to work on counter moves. Once I get locked up, I need to know what to do. I need to read the run better too. I juts have a long way to improve my all around game." Jim Ewan his coach at Chandler High School concurs with that skill assessment: "He's a diamond in a rough. His senior season was his 1st year of full football. He's rough around the edges, and it's a shame he couldn't play another year of high school Football. But he's very athletic, and he runs a 4.7. His technique can use refinement, but he's naturally strong. He's very quick from around the corner, and he rushes the passer well. He'll have to learn to play the run."

The defensive end is very realistic at what he needs to do, in order to materialize his potential and desire to be an impact player this year. "I plan on getting started on the off-season program as soon as possible. I want to get conditioned as much as I can. I have to do that, so I can make a mark. I want to play right away, but until I practice with the guys, I can't say if I'm ready or not. If I redshirt, that's fine with me. The coaches never told me if they plan on me to redshirt or not. They just wanted me to graduate (Johnson is fully qualified) and work out in the summer."

It's no secret that ASU's defense played poorly last year and that the defensive end position in specific was arguably one the biggest Achilles heels on this side of the ball. Improving its pass rush is vital for the Sun Devils in their quest to reverse their defensive fortunes in 2002. With Nick Johnson's skills and potential he could be a difference maker up front sooner than expected. And if fans are skeptical in this true freshman's chances this season, then they need to look no further than Johnson's good friend and Pac-10 Freshman of the year in 2000 - Terrell Suggs…


Nick Johnson

High School

Chandler HS, Chandler, AZ


DE (Played TE too)


6-3 1/2



Date of Birth



Washington D.C.


"Regulator" and "Big Nick"

Favorite TV Show


Favorite Movie

The Matrix

Favorite Singer


Favorite Food

Anything is good

Favorite Drink

Orange Juice

Favorite Athlete

Jevon Kearse

Favorite Pro Team

Sacramento Kings

Person you most admire

My Mom. She's does a lot for me, even though she doesn't have much. That means a lot to me.

First Football Memory

My freshman year. I played running back, and on my first carry I got hit real hard. That was the hardest I ever got hit. It was like "Welcome to Football." (smile)

One Thing most people don't know about me

I like to read a lot. My favorite authors are Grisham and Clancy.

Why did you choose ASU?

Location. I can't stand anything cold. I love the heat!

Where do you want to be in ten years?

Owning my own gym.

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